Monday, March 31, 2003

A Single Step
The Chicago Cubs. Know them. Love them. Watch them throttle the New York Mets 15-2 on Opening Day.

Cool It Now
A few years back, I interviewed a college biology professor who told me about media hysterics. The media tend to blow stories about science out of proportion because most reporters simply don’t understand science. Miracle cures are seldom miraculous. Revolutionary discoveries are seldom revolutionary. And deadly viral epidemics are seldom what they seem to be. Last year, fewer than 50 people died of West Nile Virus. Trucks were rolling through subdivisions spraying for mosquitos. The media were in hysterics, of course. This year, it’s SARS. But don’t panic. Keep a level head. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Celluloid Chunks
“Their mission: Set off a couple of nuclear explosions that (they hope) will set the core a-spinnin' again. The Earth's innards are depicted in special effects resembling a 1960s underground movie seen on acid, and it is marvelous that the crew has a windshield so they can see out as they drill through dense matter in total darkness. Eventually they reach a depth where the pressure is 800,000 pounds per square inch — and then they put on suits to walk around outside. Their suits are obviously made of something stronger and more flexible than Unobtainium. Probably corduroy.”

For big laughs and good feelings, read Ebert’s entire review of The Core.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Quick fix
I don’t know what the hell the Contra Costa Times is, but here’s a columnist who hits the nail on the head, then throws the nail's carcass into a back-alley dumpster.

Faulty Linkage Update
I just realized that you can't deep link into The Washington Post unless you are registered on its website. For all the readers for whom this presented a problem, I apologize with every fiber of my clothing. As for the rest of you, keep on truckin'.

For Whom the Bell Chungs
Encouraging news for people who believe responsible journalism still has a pulse. Connie Chung may not be the worst in the industry, but she is one of the most visible...

OK, maybe she is the worst.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Alternative Action
Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff tackles the affirmative action problem. This should be required reading for anyone who ever wants to present a cogent argument for or against Aff Act.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Burn Baby, Burn
Sunday morning. Weather channel predicts clear skies and temperatures around 75 degrees here in Dallas. Miya, the beautiful, olive-skinned light of my life, suggests we go out by the pool and sunbathe. Sunbathing, for those unfamiliar, is the act of laying outside in various states of undress. You may think there’s more to it than that, but you would be wrong. Sunbathing is a seemingly simple endeavor. Someone is sure to say: “Hey, you don’t have to just lay there. You can drink beers or read a book.” To these people I say: “That is not sunbathing. That is drinking beer or reading a book.” Sunbathing is a passive thing. Reading and drinking require motion and attention. So anyway yeah, Miya and I stripped down and headed poolside.

I am white. I tan a bit in summer, but by spring I am usually white again. Back when I was a kid, I used to get the most spectacular tans on earth. Deep, brown, healthy-looking tans. In my later years, especially in college, when I spent a balance of the summer months outdoors on scaffolding painting houses, I still would get pretty rockin’ tans. But these days I am white. I work in an office. My summertime frolicking is minimal.

So after an hour under a clear noon sky I was still white. I was losing hope. But I figured that if I just got past a certain point, the brown would come. Miya turned over; I did not. After a little while, we went back inside and I finally had achieved a modicum of color. I was ecstatic...

That is, until two hours later. I was burned. Burned badly. Sunburned. From sunbathing. Miya apologized profusely despite the fact it was clearly not her fault. I laughed in embarrassment. I am now covered from neck to toe with some aloe crap that reeks of spoiled mint. I feel better today, but I am saddened that my halcyon days of a swarthy, evenly tanned torso are behind me. Despair.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Sometime last year, after my ‘93 Ford Probe broke down for the last time, I finally took Ben’s advice and abandoned the thing. But not before I had, at long last, negotiated the complex web of pedantry and deceit that is the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The cost for turning my Illinois plates into Texas plates? $200, all told.

So late last year I drove my new used car from Chicago to Dallas. I bought Ben’s ‘91 MR2 in late September, knowing I would have to subject myself to the same rigamarole that plagued me and my Probe. So I got my vehicle inspection (after getting the parking brake, headlights and turn signal fixed) and headed to the DMV to get my plates. I won’t go into details of that ass-fuck, but the bottom line in that it took me three separate trips before I finally left with my plates.

There was one thing, though, that I have to get off my chest. By far the most ridiculous part of the whole Illinois-to-Texas process is a little something called the “New Resident Tax.”

The New Resident Tax is $90, and in theory is a tax paid by new Texas residents. This would explain the name “New Resident Tax.” I have read many books and legal papers and technical manuals in my time, and I feel I am fairly qualified to reach this conclusion: A new resident tax is a tax to be paid by new residents. Sure, the term “new” if fairly relative, so let’s say a new resident is one who has moved into the state within the last year. That’s fair, no? OK then, it’s settled. The new resident tax, by virtue of its name, mandates that every Texan with under one year of residency pay $90 if he wishes to have his car registered in Texas.

Alas! This is not the case here in the Lone Star State. Since I was not born on the Llano Estacado or anywhere hereabouts, and since I seem to have a knack for bringing cars in from out of state, I have had to now pay the “New Resident Tax” not once, but twice. You see, the simple fact is that the New Resident Tax is a scam. It has nothing to do with being a new resident. I know this for a fact because I brought my W2s to the DMV and informed them that I have been living in-state for three years now. I may be a Yankee, but I am not a new resident. The following conversation — completely and accurately transcribed according to me — followed:

Me: So I have to pay the New Resident Tax?
DMV: Yes.
Me: Even though I’m not a new resident and I have paid it before?
DMV: Yes.
Me: Am I on camera?
DMV: Yes.
Me: No, I mean like on some practical-joke show?
DMV: No.
Me: So what is the New Resident Tax, since it is not a new resident tax?
DMV: Sir, I am going to have to ask that you not ask questions.
Me: OK, then I demand you tell me what the New Resident Tax is. I demand, because I am a New Resident Taxpayer and I have rights!
DMV: No, sir, you don’t. You’re still new.

At this point, I became discouraged. I had been in the DMV for an hour and a half at that point and I had a feeling I was getting nowhere. It was clear that the only way I was getting out of that office street-legal was to shut my trap and cough up the $90. And that’s exactly what I did.

Get Down Like That
Nothing is funnier than simple kitten humor.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
An illuminating interview with the great Roger Ebert. And in case you don’t understand why I heap such praise on a mere movie critic, take a gander at some of his zero-star reviews (I particularly recommend his review of “Freddy Got Fingered”). Agree with him or not, he is a virtuouso when it comes to explaining why he thinks a movie is bad.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Impossibly Great Photos

Today is gonna’ be busy. Busy like a fox.

Remember the Barrie Park saga? Sure you do. Well, one of the neighborhood residents has started a cool website that chronicles the whole mess (there are picture galleries, video, testimonials, porn links). Apparently, 60 Minutes may be getting involved. Visit the site and you’ll understand the magnitude of what’s going on.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

In one way or another, he’s a bad brother
Roger Ebert has done it again.

Poor family. They probably woke up thinking "Something smells delicious.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Passive Voice
I was recently reminded of McSweeney’s. This was read by me once before and upon reading it again I was lead to laughter. Visiting McSweeney’s is recommended.

Southern Denial: A Quick Case Study
It is social law: When someone lets you in while you’re driving around, you give them a courtesy wave. Very simple. A lot of people are unaware of this contract, sure, but most people understand and submit to the courtesy wave.

Today. Lunch time. Dave was in the neighborhood getting his teeth cleaned so he came by, picked me up and we headed to Burger Street. So we start driving through the parking lot outside of my office and some bubble-headed broad in an upscale SUV turns right in front of us. Dave didn’t hit the brake. He didn’t even see her coming. I did, and it was because I saw her that I witnessed one of the most ingenious driving maneuvers to hit streets since the three-point turn. In a brazen display of courtesy-wave abuse, this woman was smiling and waving her hand at Dave (who wasn’t looking at her), while she was cutting him off. This incident illustrated two violations of what we currently know about driving etiquette:

1. Never assume someone is letting you in.

but more importantly:
2. There is no such thing as a pre-courtesy courtesy wave.

The courtesy wave is a thank you. It is a recognition that someone who did not have any obligation to do so has let you in to the flow of traffic. We are in cars. We can’t talk to each other. So we wave instead. That’s the contract. The contract is not If I wave at you, then you will let me in. It is If I let you in, you must wave to me. It is not a conjunctive contract; it is an “If ..., then” contract. This woman obviously did not have it right.

Fiction: Hands-free, in Real Time
Fiction has a strange relationship with its dialogue. For the last 100 years or so, characters have pretty much spoken to one another the same way. And I’ve been thinking lately that this relationship is due for a revolution. This revolution is preceded by a question: How will authors address the use of cell phones in their writing?

Characters in books seldom talk on the phone because a phone conversation does not lend itself to fiction. It requires an awkward setup and narrative. And after that awkwardness is negotiated, there’s still the matter of writing a dialogue between unanimated characters. Facial expressions, gestures, tics be damned. But the irony is that fiction will become obsolete if it fails to mimic reality. Phone conversations were easy to avoid ten years ago, but now that everyone with a pulse and a friend is on his cell phone every 10 minutes or so, well, we’ve got ourselves a problem. Should characters have cell phones? (And shit, while I’m on the subject, should characters have IM? Playstations? PDAs?)

The answer to these questions isn’t really the point. Fiction writers have no choice but to give their characters cell phones. So there’s a problem. A huge, unavoidable problem. And the way I see it, the revolution will involve how writers tackle the new relationship between their story and its dialogue. Its new, modern, wireless dialogue.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Roger & Me
Some day, Roger Ebert will be remembered as more than just a movie critic. Why? Read this and find out.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Old Skool
For some reason this has been on my mind all day. Top political names from the 80s:
Benjamin Netanyahu
Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier
Imelda Marcos
Helmut Cole
Menachem Begin
FW de Klerk
Manuel Noriega
Geraldine Ferraro
Roland Americo “Buddy” Biancalana (former Kansas City Royals shortstop ... close enough)
I mean, you just can’t make that kind of shit up.

I had Dave call the leasing office to report the car incident. The plot thickens:

I called the Corners East, he said they had gotten a report of theft in our parking lot from last night from someone else. I told him I'd be interested to heard more details about the report he got, and he's gonna call me back with the information.

All Points Bulletin
Some criminally inclined rapscallion tried to break into my car last night through the driver’s side window. If anyone knows who the bastard is that done it, please email me and I will have a renewed faith in the goodness of humanity. Luckily, the dimwit didn’t succeed, but now my window is slightly screwed up and it makes me feel naked and violated. But mostly just naked.

Identity Theft
Last night, Dave G and I went and worked out for like forever. I went to his gym on a guest pass and, after filling out the obligatory paperwork, had a spirited round of iron-pumping and good times. After we had achieved maximum muscle pump and were thoroughly exhausted, we ventured downstairs to the CD shop, he to buy some gift disks and I to browse aimlessly. Well, during my aimless browsing, I came across a CD I’ve been looking for for like forever, Butter 08. I snatched it up and, being in my workout clothes sans wallet and cash, asked Dave G if he could kindly purchase the disk for me. In exchange for this simple favor, I would then pay him back later. It was foolproof. To further encourage him to help me out, I told him that I’d been looking everywhere for these songs — Kazaa, Limewire, Nepal — and that this was indeed a rare find. Sensing my enthusiasm and not wanting to shit on my parade, he finally acquiesced. So it came time for us to check out and hit the road. Dave put the CDs on the counter and ruffled his greenbacks. The hip-looking guy behind the counter ignored Dave's Scandanavian church rock selections and picked up my Butter 08. The following exchange ensued:

Cashier: “Butter 08 ... cool. Cibo Matto. These disks are hard to find.”
Dave G: “Yeah, I’ve been looking around. I couldn’t even find them on Kazaa.”
Cashier: “Well, it’s some good stuff.”
Dave G: “Yeah, I know.” (money and merch trade hands) “Thanks man.”

Talk about stealing my fucking glory.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Poblano Destimano

>From: "Nick"
>Subject: ahahahaha
>Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 23:11:55 -0600
>you dont know me but i thought this was kinda freaky/funny. i was watching tv and i saw that goddamned llano estacado commercial. because i put every word i hear into google, i put that in there naturally. and i get your page and read your entry (im from suburban chicago too, what the hell!) and i was laughing for about 15 minutes. anyway thats all, thought id add a little sunshine to your life.

Thanks Nickaroo. Sunshine appreciated.

Years of anthropological research and close study of the resulting empirical data have lead me to the undeniable conclusion that men who wear tight pants and jean jackets are either:

a. Gay
b. From Europe

Monday, March 03, 2003

I discovered today that ...
... even the most pointless sentence modifiers can make statements seem important:

Mathematically, today has been the busiest day of the year.”
Theoretically, today has been the busiest day of the year.”
Basically, today has been the busiest day of the year.”
In a manner of speaking, today has been the busiest day of the year.”
According to unidentified sources, today has been the busiest day of the year.”
Since my colonoscopy, today has been the busiest day of the year.”